StartupAUS concerned by absence of a ‘best practice’ copyright protection in new bill


Copyright reforms tabled in Parliament, this week, exclude a ‘best practice’ mechanism that would have protected young companies against online infringement, according to Australia’s peak advocacy group for start-ups.

The Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill 2017 was introduced into the House of Representatives on Wednesday by Minister for Urban Infrastructure, Paul Fletcher, who described it as ‘an important step in simplifying Australia’s existing copyright framework’.

Responding to the proposed reform, StartupAUS said it was disappointed by the ‘last minute’ removal of a ‘safe harbour’ provision from the Bill.  According to the group, a copyright safe harbour regime would facilitate greater innovation and creativity in Australia by providing a mechanism for online platforms to deal with user-generated copyright infringement issues quickly and fairly.

CEO of StartupAUS, Alex McCauley, said the absence of a safe harbour regime could harm the country’s ability to keep leading young technology companies in Australia, and deter the creation and growth of businesses.

“Australia’s copyright laws have still not caught up to the realities of the Internet,” McCauley said. “As a result the laws still struggle to provide clarity and protection for organisations doing business online.

“Copyright safe harbour is an essential part of the innovation framework. It provides copyright owners a quick and cost effective way to force an online service provider to remove any infringing content from its network that was placed there by users. In exchange, the service provider is protected from being sued for damages if they remove the content quickly.

“This safe harbour provision had strong community support and was backed by the productivity commission. Copyright safe harbour is international best practice, and without it Australian startups will be held back from participating in the rich global market for content and ideas. We strongly urge the government to reconsider the need for safe harbour provisions.

“Many of the world’s most successful technology companies began by providing a platform for content online. Lots of Australia’s most successful startups are trying to do the same, but are at a disadvantage because of a lack of safe harbour provisions. Some of our most successful young technology companies, like Envato and Redbubble, have already been subjected to legal action as a result.

“We risk losing great businesses like these, and stifling the growth of others, if we don’t develop a strong safe harbour framework like such as they have in the US, Singapore, the UK and other EU countries. If Australia wants to transition to become a digital economy, we must catch up with the rest of the world on how we treat online copyright content,” Mr McCauley said.